Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Seven Sacraments and Their Liturgies, Part 6: Extreme Unction

Previous parts in this series:
Part 1: Introduction to the Sacraments
Part 2: Baptism
Part 3: Confirmation
Part 4: Eucharist
Part 4.1: De Defectibus
Part 5: Penance

Several times throughout our lives, we are anointed with holy oil. Anointing marks us as heirs to the kingdom of God and members of his royal priesthood. We are first anointed with holy oil at our Baptism, when we are first received into God's holy Church. We are anointed again with holy oil at Confirmation, which perfects the sacrament of Baptism. Priests are anointed at their ordination. Finally, we receive our last anointing in the sacrament of Extreme Unction. Extreme Unction, also called Anointing of the Sick, is the sacrament of healing given to those who are gravely ill and in danger of death. It gives a final increase in sanctifying grace, remission of the stain of sin, and the spiritual strength needed at the hour of death. The desired result is either physical healing or a happy and peaceful death, whichever is God's will.

In the Old Covenant, people petitioned to the Lord for healing (Isaiah 38:1-5, Exodus 15:26). However, there was no parallel for the sacrament of Extreme Unction, because Extreme Unction prepares a man to be glorified in heaven, and men could not be glorified under the Old Covenant (Hebrews 7:19). Jesus instituted the sacrament of Extreme Unction when he commanded his apostles to heal the sick (Matthew 10:8, Luke 10:9). In Mark 6:13, we read that the apostles anointed the sick with oil. St. James commands the celebration of Extreme Unction in his epistle, saying, “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15).

When a person is in danger of death, Extreme Unction may be given as part of the Last Rites, which will be described in the tenth and final part of this series. In this case, it is preceded by the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion.

The essential matter of the sacrament of Extreme Unction is holy oil. There are three types of holy oil. Before Baptism, we are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens. When we receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and possibly Holy Orders, we are anointed with Sacred Chrism. For our final anointing in Extreme Unction, we are anointed with the third type of oil, Oil of the Sick. The essential form of the sacrament is a prayer for the sick person's healingthe “prayer of faith” that St. James wrote of. Many different forms have been used at various times and places. The essential minister of Extreme Unction is a priest.

The priest who administers Extreme Unction wears surplice and purple stole. The sacrament may take place in a church, a private home, a hospital room, or wherever else it is needed. One candle is lit to represent the light of Christ. It also represents the candle given at Baptism. When the priest enters the place where the sick person is, he greets those present with Christ's peace.

Pax huic dómui.
Et ómnibus habitántibus in ea.
Peace to this house.
And to all who dwell herein.

This is the greeting that Christ commanded his apostles to give when he instituted the sacrament of Extreme Unction (Luke 10:5). It is also similar to the greeting that our Lord gave his apostles after his Resurrection (John 20:19). The priest then sprinkles the sick person, the room, and everyone else present with holy water, saying the antiphon used at the sprinkling of holy water before Sunday Mass. This sprinkling with holy water blesses the room and repels demons.

Aspérges me. Dómine, hyssópo, et mundábor: lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor.
Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow.

Here, the priest may give the sick person some counseling, admonishment, or words of comfort. If the sick person wishes to make a confession, the priest hears his confession. He then begins the ceremony of Extreme Unction by imploring God's help in the words of Psalm 123:8. This is the same psalm verse used before the Confiteor at Mass and at Compline. Each time we use this verse to call upon God in the sacred liturgy, we are begging his divine mercy and forgiveness. At Mass, we ask forgiveness so that we can worthily participate in the Holy Sacrifice. At Compline, we ask forgiveness at the end of the day to prepare ourselves for sleep and ultimately for death. At Extreme Unction, we ask forgiveness of all of the sick man's transgressions throughout his life, so that he may obtain God's spiritual healing.

Adiutórium nóstrum ☩ in nómine Dómini.
Qui fecit cælum et terram.
Our help is ☩ in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

The priest then says three prayers. The first is a prayer for his own sanctity. He prays that he may worthily and fruitfully minister to the sick man and be an agent of God's healing power.

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Intróeat, Dómine Jesu Christe, domum hanc sub nostræ humilitátis ingréssu, ætérna felícitas, divína prospéritas, seréna lætítia, cáritas fructuósa, sánitas sempitérna: effúgiat ex hoc loco accéssus dæmonum: adsint Angeli pacis, domúmque hanc déserat omnis malígna discórdia. Magnífica, Dómine, super nos nomen sanctum tuum; et béne+dic nostræ conversatióni: sanctífica nostræ humilitátis ingréssum, qui sanctus et qui pius es, et pérmanes cum Patre et Spíritu Sancto in sæcula sæculórum.
The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
As I enter here with a sense of my own unworthiness, O Lord Jesus Christ, let abiding happiness enter with me; may the blessings of God and unmixed joy accompany my visit; may fruitful charity and lasting good health come with me. Let no evil spirit gain entrance here. May the angels of peace be present, and may all harmful discord leave this house. Strengthen me with your divine power, and bless + what I am about to do. Unworthy though I be, may my entry be blessed by you who are holy, you who are merciful, you who abide with the Father and Holy Ghost forever and ever.

In the next prayer, the priest asks for God's blessing upon the home and prays for the guardianship of the holy angels. The angels are the noblest of God's creatures who watch over us and protect us from evil. In Psalm 90:11, King David sings, “For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.”

Orémus, et deprecémur Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum, ut benedicéndo bene+dicat hoc tabernáculum, et omnes habitántes in eo, et det eis Angelum bonum custódem, et fáciat eos sibi servíre ad considerándum mirabília de lege sua: avértat ab eis omnes contrárias potestátes: erípiat eos ab omni formídine, et ab omni perturbatióne, ac sanos in hoc tabernáculo custodíre dignétur: Qui cum Patre et Spíritu Sancto vivit et regnat Deus in sæcula sæculórum.
Let us pray and beg our Lord Jesus Christ to fill with his + blessings this house and all who dwell herein. May he give them his holy angel as their guardian; may he prompt them to serve him, mindful of the wonders of his law; may he ward off every hostile power; may he save them from fear and from all anxiety, and keep them safe and sound in this house. Who lives and reigns with the Father and Holy Ghost, God, forever and ever.

This last prayer also asks for the protection of the holy angels. It is the same prayer that is sung after the Asperges before Sunday Mass.

Exáudi nos, Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérnæ deus: et míttere dignéris sanctum Angelum tuum de cælis, qui custódiat, fóveat, prótegat, vísitet, atque deféndat omnes habitántes in hoc habitáculo. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
Let us pray.
Hear us, O holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, and vouchsafe to send thy holy Angel from heaven, to guard, cherish, protect, visit and defend all that are assembled in this place: Through Christ our Lord.

If the sick man is in imminent danger of death, some or all of the preceding prayers may be omitted. Otherwise, the sick man proceeds to say the Confiteor. If he is unable to speak, the server says it on his behalf. The priest gives him absolution, like at Mass and Compline.

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Joanni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, ómnibus Sanctis, et tibi, Pater: quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et ópere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Joánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et te, Pater, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.
Misereátur tui omnípotens Deus, et dimíssis peccátis tuis, perdúcat te ad vitam ætérnam.
Indulgéntiam, ☩ absolutionem et remissiónem peccatórum tuórum tríbuat tibi omnípotens et miséricors Dóminus.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word and deed: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, Father, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
May Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting.
May the ☩ almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon, absolution, and remission of your sins.

The priest then tells those present to pray for the sick man. If there is time, those present may sing or say the seven penitential psalms and the Litany of the Saints to pray for the sick man. The seven penitential psalms are Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142. Each of these psalms has the character of crying out to God for his mercy. The psalms are a beautiful, powerful, and divinely ordained form of prayer. Holy Mother Church sanctifies each day with psalms in the Divine Office, and now we offer psalms to pray for the sick person. The Litany of the Saints implores the intercession of the entire court of heaven. We invoke many saints by name and ask them to pray for us. Like psalms, the intercession of saints is very powerful. Thus, the Roman Ritual suggests these two forms of prayer for the sick man, as part of the Church's zeal to ensure the salvation of every single one of her members. Even if time or practical considerations prevent those present from offering the seven penitential psalms and Litany of Saints, they should still pray for the sick man and for his spiritual healing and salvation.

Before anointing the sick person, the priest performs an exorcism of any demons that may be affecting the sick man. He makes three Signs of the Cross instead of just one. This is how bishops regularly give blessings, but a simple priest makes the three Signs of the Cross only in exorcisms. The devil cannot tolerate the symbol of our salvation. With his hand extended over the sick man, the priest also implores the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all of the holy angels and saints against the demons.

In nómine Pa+tris, et Fí+lii, et Spíritus + Sancti, extinguátur in te omnis virtus diáboli per impositiónem mánuum nostrárum, et per invocatiónem gloriósæ et sanctæ Dei Genitrícis Vírginis Maríæ, ejúsque ínclyti Sponsi Joseph, et ómnium sanctórum Angelórum, Archangelórum, Mártyrum, Confessórum, Vírginum, atque ómnium simul Sanctórum.
In the name of the Father +, and of the Son +, and of the Holy + Ghost, may all the power of the devil over you be destroyed by the imposition of our hands, and through the invocation of the glorious and holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, her illustrious spouse, St. Joseph, and all the holy angels, archangels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the saints together.

Now comes the anointing itself. The priest anoints the sick man's eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands and feet with the Sign of the Cross. Each time, he prays for God's forgiveness for sins committed using the faculties given by that body part. This anointing and the accompanying prayer are the essential matter and form of the sacrament.

Ad oculos
Per istam sanctam Unctió+nem, et suam piíssimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per visum deliquísti. Amen.

Ad aures
Per istam sanctam Unctió+nem, et suam piíssimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per audítum deliquísti. Amen.

Ad nares
Per istam sanctam Unctió+nem, et suam piíssimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per odorátum deliquísti. Amen.

Ad os, compressis labiis
Per istam sanctam Unctió+nem, et suam piíssimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per gustum et locutiónem deliquísti. Amen.

Ad manus
Per istam sanctam Unctió+nem, et suam piíssimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per tactum deliquísti. Amen.

Ad pedes
Per istam sanctam Unctió+nem, et suam piíssimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per gressum deliquísti. Amen.
Of the eyes
By this holy + anointing and his most loving mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done through sight. Amen..

Of the ears
By this holy + anointing and his most loving mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done through hearing. Amen.

Of the nostrils
By this holy + anointing and his most loving mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done through the sense of smell. Amen.

Of the mouth with closed lips
By this holy + anointing and his most loving mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done through taste and speech. Amen.

Of the hands
By this holy + anointing and his most loving mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done through the sense of touch. Amen.

Of the feet
By this holy + anointing and his most loving mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done through the power to walk. Amen.

If it is impractical to anoint the feet, then this anointing may be omitted. If the sick man is a priest, then he is anointed on the backs of the hands instead of the fronts of the hands, because the fronts of his hands were already anointed at his ordination. At one time, men would also be anointed on the loin, but this is no longer done.

Like all sacraments, Extreme Unction grants grace ex opere operato, meaning “from the work performed.” That is, the action of anointing the sick man with oil and saying the accompanying prayer itself confers sanctifying grace. This is unlike the Rosary, for example, where actual grace is given, not by the Rosary beads themselves, but by the devotion of the one praying the Rosary. Thus, in the prayer accompanying each anointing, the priest says, “By this holy anointing,” because the anointing itself confers grace. However, this form is unlike other sacraments, where the minister speaks in first person: “I baptize thee...” “I sign thee with the Sign of the Cross...” “I absolve you from your sins...” and so on. In the form of Extreme Unction, the priest instead prays, “May the Lord forgive you.” It appears that the priest is not doing something himself, but rather praying for God to do something. However, this does not mean that the priest's words and actions do not inherently confer grace. St. James wrote, “The prayer of faith shall save the sick man” (James 5:15). Thus, the words the priest says are his prayer of faith, which is the essential form of the sacrament.

The ceremony of Extreme Unction concludes with prayers for the sick person. These prayers begin with a series of petitions similar in form to the preces sung at Lauds and Vespers on certain penitential occasions. (The genders of the Latin words are changed depending on if the sick person is a man or woman.)

Kýrie eléson. Christe, eléison. Kýrie eléson.
Pater noster, qui es in cælis, sanctificétur nomen tuum: advéniat regnum tuum: fiat volúntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidiánum da nobis hódie: et dimítte nobis débita nostra, sicut et nos dimíttimus debitóribus nostris:
Et ne nos indúcas in tentatiónesm.
Sed líbera nos a malo.
Salvum fac servum tuum.
Deus meus, sperántem in te.
Mitte ei, Dómine, auxílium de sancto.
Et de Sion tuére eum.
Esto ei, Dómine, turris fortitúdinis.
A fácie inimíci.
Nihil profíciat inimícus in eo.
Et fílius iniquitátis non appónat nocére ei.
Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam.
Et clamor meus ad te véniat.
Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
Save your servant.
Who trusts in you, my God.
Send him help, O Lord, from your sanctuary.
And sustain him from Sion.
Be a tower of strength for him, O Lord.
Against the attack of the enemy.
Let the enemy have no power over him.
And let not the son of evil dare to harm him.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come to you.
The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.

The priest then says three prayers for the sick man. The first one quotes St. James's description of Extreme Unction, which is our assurance, inspired by God and spoken through St. James, of the efficacy of the sacrament.

Dómine Deus, qui per Apóstolum tuum Jacóbum locútus es: Infirmátur quis in vobis? indúcat presbýteros Ecclésiæ et orent super eum, ungéntes eum óleo in nómine Dómini: et orátio fídei salvábit infírmum, et alleviábit eum Dóminus: et si in peccátis sit, remitténtur ei; cura, quæsumus, Redémptor noster, grátia Sancti Spíritus languóres istíus infírmi, ejúsque sana vúlnera, et dimítte peccáta, atque dolóres cunctos mentis et córporis ab eo expélle, plenámque intérius et extérius sanitátem misericórditer redde, ut, ope misericórdiæ tuæ restitútus, ad prístina reparétur offícia: Qui cum Patre et eódem Spíritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus, in sæcula sæculórum.

Réspice, quæsumus, Dómine fámulum tuum N. in infirmitáte sui córporis fatiscéntem, et ánimam réfove, quam creásti: ut, castigatiónibus emendátus, se tua séntiat medicína salvátum. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.

Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérne Deus, qui, benedictiónis tuæ grátiam ægris infundéndo corpóribus, factúram tuam multíplici pietáte custódis: ad invocatiónem tui nóminis benígnus assíste; ut fámulum tuum ab ægritúdine liberátum, et sanitáte donátum, déxtera tua érigas, virtúte confírmes, potestáte tueáris, atque Ecclésiæ tuæ sanctæ, cum omni desideráta prosperitáte, restítuas. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
Let us pray.
Lord God, you have spoken through your apostle James: "Is anyone sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him." Cure, we ask you, our Redeemer, the sickness of this sick man by the grace of the Holy Ghost, heal his wounds, forgive his sins, and drive from him all pain of mind and body. In your mercy restore him inwardly and outwardly to full health, so that, having recovered through the help of your mercy, he may return to his former duties: who with the Father and the same Holy Ghost live and reign, God, forever and ever.

Let us pray.
Look with favor, we ask you, O Lord, upon your servant N., growing weak from bodily sickness, and revive the soul that you created, so that, purified by sufferings, he may find himself restored by your healing. Through Christ our Lord.

Let us pray.
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, by pouring the grace of your blessing upon sick bodies, you guard your creature with generous love. In your kindness come at the invocation of your name, raise up by your right hand your servant, free from sickness and restored in health, strengthen him by your power, protect him by your might, and give him back to your holy Church in all his desired well-being. Through Christ our Lord.

In these three prayers, we pray for healing of body and soul, which is the desired result of the sacrament of Extreme Unction. If it is God's will, the bodily healing may occur on earth, and the sick man may be cured. However, God may instead wish to call the sick man home to eternal life. In this case, we pray that he may attain his eternal perfection and glory in heaven. The third of these prayers especially prays for the resurrection of the sick man's body, glorified and in perfect health (Acts 24:15). The priest may then offer counsel to the sick man.

New terms
  • Oil of the Sick – One of the three types of holy oil blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday, used in the administration of Extreme Unction.
  • ex opere operato – Latin for “by the work performed,” meaning the action of the sacrament itself confers grace.

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